Books Read in April/May

“The Office of Mercy” a novel by Ariel Djanikian

The sun sank behind the trees, and the blue-black shadows of the forest encroached farther down the sloping beach.

Yet another dystopian novel to feed my obsession. This particular future takes place in America Five, an underground utopia where the citizens’ needs are provided for from food and shelter to jobs and healthcare. After a global catastrophe known as the Storm changes everything, these settlements cropped up where the goal is immortality in a perfect world. But immortality and perfection come at a price. A price that Natasha is beginning to question. She works in the Office of Mercy,  the department in charge of “sweeping” the survivors of the Storm, Their job is considered supremely ethical, to put nomads who live on the Outside, out of their misery. When Natasha is selected by her mentor, Jeffrey, to join a special team she is allowed Outside for the first time. What happens there makes her question everything she has been taught about being a citizen in America Five. Her allegiance is torn and it threatens to tear apart the only society she has ever known.  A page turner, for sure.

 What I learned: To write a novel like this you must have all the details nailed down. One inconsistency and the story comes tumbling down.

 ‘Wave” a memoir by Sonali Deraniyagala

I thought nothing of it at first. The ocean looked a little closer to our hotel than usual.

It was the day after Christmas in 2004 in Sri Lanka. Deraniyagala was spending the holidays there with her husband, two young sons and her parents. Then the wave came. Only she survived. What follows is her devastating account of her life after losing everyone. Each sentence shimmers with her pain and grief. The loss is immense, hard to even fathom much less put into words. But she does it with brutal, raw honesty.  There is even beauty in the moments she chooses to record. The whole book will haunt  me for a very long time but one image that I believe I will never forget is of her leaning in to kiss the marks showing her sons’ growth when she finally is able to return to their home.

 What I learned: To go slowly, do not rush past what is hard or painful.

“Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Pets” a YA novel by Evan Roskos

I yawp most mornings to irritate my father, the Brute.

James adores Walt Whitman, hugs trees and talks to an imaginary pigeon therapist named Dr. Bird. Ever since his parents kicked out his older sister, Jorie, James makes it his mission to get her back home where he believes she belongs. But the more he investigates, the more he learns about his sister’s secrets. What initially drew me to this book was the awesome title. But once I started reading, the unique compelling voice hooked me. I’m a sucker for a quirky character and James fits the bill.

 What I learned: I don’t usually notice tense so much but this use of present tense made me realize how essential it is. It would’ve been a totally different story had been told in past tense. I mean, I know this but now I know it, you know?